Thursday, November 29, 2007


Actors support the writers' strike:

In other news:

Yup, I've finished my 50,000+ word NaNoWriMo novel for this year! I feel somewhat less successful and triumphant than the last two years, since I wasn't able to finish the complete story that I wanted to tell. But I did bring it to an abrupt, unsatisfying ending, which I understand is not uncommon for fantasy epics.

I also wasn't able to spend quite as much time writing this year, thanks to getting sick for several days early in the month and having other social commitments to honor, including a couple of TV Nights (D and I invite friends over to watch Heroes, three episodes at a time--thanks TiVo!) and a trip to Portland to visit our friend Mike and see the sights.

Just to bring this post full circle... Mike has a character named after him in the upcoming movie Case 39, starring Renee Zellweger, screenplay written by Mike's friend Ray. Mike would have preferred someone who looked more like himself to play the part of "Detective Mike Barron," but he supposes Deadwood badass Ian McShane will have to do.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Mighty Pencil

Best. Strike Video. Ever So Far.

See many, many more at United Hollywood, or all over YouTube.

I have to admit, this is my favorite part of the WGA strike. Who needs TV when you've got all this free entertainment on the Internet?

I Thought That Was Obvious

So I've been seeing ads everywhere for the movie remake of I Am Legend, for which the tagline is "The last man on Earth is not alone." On its own, a catchy phrase. Makes you think a little bit. But when combined with the poster image, it loses all its punch. See if you can spot the inconsistency below:

Am I the only one who thinks this is a problem? He's got a dog. Of course he's not alone. The tagline is trying to set up the whole movie, making it all mysterious and whatnot, and then you look down and there's the dog. With the man. Man + Dog = Not Alone.

I mean, come on, Hollywood marketing drones. Don't you see how you're undercutting the whole premise of the advertising? You tantalize us with a question ("What do you mean, he's not alone? He's the last man on Earth! How can he not be alone?"), but then immediately allow for a lame and obvious answer ("Oh, I see, he's got a dog. So he's not alone because he has a dog. I get it.") Maybe I have a different sense of "alone" because I'm a pet owner, but there are a lot of pet owners out there.

Here's some free advice: You're supposed to make us wait for it, to get us all worked up because only seeing the movie will answer all our questions. This is just sloppy. It's like advertising LOST with a poster of an island and the tagline "Are they on an island?" I don't need to watch if the answer is right freakin' there in the ad.

I wonder if the I Am Legend ads are a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing--or, more likely, the marketing department not understanding what the writers were going for. "Great tagline! But we also need to show the dog in the poster. People like dogs. We need to attract that dog-owner demographic. What do you mean, it undercuts the tagline? Oh, you writers and your nitpicking! Get back to the salt mines and make some more words!"

StrikeDog is not amused.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reality Bites

(EDIT: added screenshot below)

The latest Nielsen ReelResearch Survey (which I signed up for the last time I was in Las Vegas, and which has been a source of intermittent entertainment) contains a portion asking me which of these reality shows I would be most likely to watch, should the current writers' strike continue beyond January.

I want to emphasize that I am not making up any of this. I've only added links below for editorializing:
Million Dollar Password – A modernized take on the original game show. Regis Philbin will host

Moment of Truth – Contestants will answer personal questions while being connected to a polygraph machine

Duel – This game show has contestants going “head-to-head” for the opportunity to win a big jackpot

Clash of the Choirs – Celebrities go back to their home towns to establish an amateur singing group and these choirs compete live

My Dad is Better than Your Dad – Dads lead their families in fun competitions against other fathers and their families

American Gladiators – Hosted by Hulk Hogan, this show follows four women and four men as they take on contestants

Do You Trust Me? – Tucker Carlson hosts. Contestants who are strangers wager how much they trust one another

Dance War: Bruno vs. Carey Ann – The choreographer judges from “Dancing With the Stars” coach their own dance teams through a routine each week

Oprah Winfrey’s The Big Give – This show centers on the competition, drama and emotion as millions of dollars are given away to make a difference in people’s lives

Baby Borrowers – Five young couples ages 16-19 must set up a home and take on various stages of parenthood

When Women Rule the World – Participants are brought to a remote island where women have the opportunity to rule as they build a newly formed society

Amne$ia – In this game show contestants must answer questions from their own lives for money and prizes. Hosted by Dennis Miller

You want another reason to end the writers' strike? I give you twelve. (Thirteen, if you count "American Gladiators" and Hulk Hogan separately.)

Please, show your support for the WGA--go buy some pencils or something.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's real simple: WGA==Right, AMPTP==Wrong.

It really is that simple, folks. The good news is, the AMPTP has agreed to re-open negotiations with the WGA on November 26th, the Monday after Thanksgiving. And I'm encouraged by all the pro-WGA, positive press that's been hitting the mainstream in the last week.

As Mark Harris notes in his "Why the Striking Writers Are Right" piece for Entertainment Weekly, the WGA took a lot longer than it should have to get its message out--quite frankly, it wasn't nearly as prepared for its own strike as the other side was. But now that the writers are speaking out, in newspapers and magazines and on the Internet, their message is loud and clear.

Here's my favorite rebuttal from Harris' article:
The AMPTP's first response to this [proposal] was to waste weeks by advocating a complete abolition of the residual system. Why, they argued, should writers get paid anything for their work after it's released? Studio chiefs who are smart enough to know better even hauled out a tired old maxim attributed to the late MCA titan Lew Wasserman -- "My plumber doesn't charge me every time I flush the toilet" -- and repeated it in perfect Karl Rove everybody-stay-on-message lockstep.

Ugh. Lines like that give you a taste of what the entertainment world will be like if management ends up doing its own writing. Not to belabor an already disgusting analogy, but writers -- and directors and actors, who have their own renegotiations coming up -- aren't the plumber: They're the water. Without them, nothing goes anywhere, and you end up with a toilet full of...well, let's just say "reruns."
Zing! Long story short: WGA==Right. AMPTP==Wrong. It's that simple. Spread the word.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Lie Is Also A Lie: Primary Sources

It's the second week of the Writers Guild strike, and things are just starting to get ugly. Yesterday, the AMPTP went Godwin and dropped the word "blacklist" into a press release. The WGA responded with a concise and focused message:
Mr. Counter's charge is as offensive as it is untrue. To accuse the Writers Guild of America of blacklisting, when it was we who suffered the most from it in the past, is simply Mr. Counter's desperate attempt to divert attention from the fact that it was he who walked out of the negotiations, and it is he who refuses every day to return to the table. The WGA has an offer on the table and is ready and willing to meet with the AMPTP any day, anywhere.
If this was an Internet forum, the producers would already have lost the argument. But in the world of old media, the corporations that employ the producers also employ the newspapers, and it's unclear where public support currently lies.

I'm not going to tell you what to think. I'm just going to tell you what the writers and producers each want, in their own words. New Media Residuals are the main sticking point in this strike, so let's focus on that.

(Aside: it's probably not a coincidence that the WGA makes their contract proposals easy to read, in a plain text web page, while the AMPTP hides all their contracts inside PDF documents.)

Here's what the WGA wants, according to their Contract 2007 Proposals:
Non-Traditional Media Residuals

WGA Proposal:
We propose all TV and theatrical content earn a residual payment of 2.5% of the distributor’s gross for re-use on non-traditional media, including the Internet, cellular technology and any other delivery system not already covered in the MBA [Minimum Basic Agreement].
Let's do the math: that means, for a $1.99 iTunes download of a House episode, the writer would get less than five cents. Surely that seems reasonable? I mean, you wouldn't have any content if someone didn't write it; and if you're making money from that content, it seems fair to give the people who created it a little piece of the action.

Well, the AMPTP disagrees. Here's their proposal, as described in the Comprehensive Package they presented during negotiations on October 25, 2007:
11. Residual Payments for Theatrical and Television Motion Pictures...

(C) Add a provision to the MBA stating that there shall be no residual payments for the exhibition or distribution of theatrical and television motion pictures, whether in whole or in part, in new media (other than as set forth in the “Sideletter on Exhibition of Motion Pictures Transmitted Via the Internet”). For this purpose, the term “new media” means any digital distribution platform now known or which is hereafter developed during the term of the 2007 Writers Guild of America Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement, including, but not limited to, digital video on demand, alternative digital broadcast channels, Internet exhibition, PDAs, broadband and cell phones.
Translation: the corporations want to pay nothing in residuals. Zero, zilch, nada.

They want to turn the clock back to the 1950s, when they could buy a show like I Love Lucy--which is still running today--and play it over and over again without ever paying the writers another penny. Viacom has been milking that cash cow for over fifty years, but the writers have gotten absolutely nothing.

Does that seem right to you?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Cake is a Lie

The pie, on the other hand, is quite delicious.

(Graphics by Adam Levermore-Rich)

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike began yesterday. The title of this post comes from John Rogers, who enjoys cake as well as the video game Portal, and has a lot to say about why the strike happened and what should be done to end it. I mean, a lot. All you really need to know is the tiger bit. (Maybe the clip from The Daily Show. It is, after all, the last new episode you're going to see for a while.)

Another John, Mr. August to you, is tagging his strike-related blog posts for easy reading. Over at Artful Writer, Craig Mazin and Ted Elliott are doing the same.

Elsewhere, Brian K. Vaughn and Ken Levine also discuss the situation which led to the strike. Jane Espenson and Lisa Klink talk about being on the picket lines.

Many others are posting at United Hollywood.

Last, but not least, here's the "Pencils Down" full-page ad in which dozens of showrunners pledge not to write during the strike.

I'm only a pair of eyeballs in all this, but the major issues seem pretty clear-cut. When the writer of a show only gets paid .3% for DVD residuals (royalties)--that's less than a third of one percent--something is hideously broken.

If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage. And now it ain't on the page. Deal with that, Hollywood.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I have not yet begun to write!

...but when I do, tomorrow, you'll be able to follow my progress on the Spaceship Castle blog. I'll come up with a better title later.

2007 NaNoWriMo Participant

The ORIGINAL Facebook

Trust me. Just click here.

And Happy Belated Halloween!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Drooling Starts Now

News roundup:
Watch with Kristin - Best News Ever! Joss Whedon Spills Exclusive Deets on His New Series

Welcome to the "Dollhouse": Joss Whedon Returns to Television

Eliza Dushku Lures Joss Whedon Back to TV!

Joss Whedon preps Fox series: 'Dollhouse' to star 'Buffy's' Eliza Dushku
Now taking bets on whether there will be references to Henrik Ibsen and/or Todd Solondz in the pilot. I'm sure we'll see both before the end of the season, if it gets a full order--Fox only wants seven episodes to start.

It would really tickle me if Joss and Tim "13 episodes" Minear would start treating their partial-season new-series orders as full story arcs, and write them like BBC series. D and I just watched Jekyll, and while it had some problems toward the end, it was a solid six-episode structure. It was a complete series--nothing "mini" about it. Get with it, American TV! Less is more! Quality not quantity! etc.